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Mixed MessagesCultural and Genetic Inheritance in the Constitution of Human Society$
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Robert A. Paul

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780226240725

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2016

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226241050.001.0001

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When Genetic and Cultural Reproduction Diverge

When Genetic and Cultural Reproduction Diverge

(p.40) Two When Genetic and Cultural Reproduction Diverge
Mixed Messages

Robert A. Paul

University of Chicago Press

This chapter presents ethnographic cases in which cultural practices and attitudes that are maladaptive from the perspective of genetic fitness are compensated for by non-genetic modes of reproduction, in particular child-capture often linked with head-hunting. The point of these somewhat extreme examples is to demonstrate clearly the independence of the cultural and the genetic transmission of information in the reproduction of society. Ethnographic cases examined include the Mundurucu, Marind-Anim, Mbaya, and Comanche. A distinction is drawn between Durham’s concept of the maladaptive “opposition” of culture to genetic fitness and fitness at the level of the socio-cultural system itself, in which the differing cultural and genetic agendas working together may result in overall adaptation for the society.

Keywords:   cultural reproduction, genetic reproduction, fitness, William Durham, Mundurucu, Marind-Anim, Mbaya, Comanche, head-hunting, maladaptation

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